Malaysiakini Letter

New health policies crucial for the wellbeing of our citizens

YS Chan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | The privilege of citizens, particularly government servants, to subsidised or free healthcare should not be totally unconditional. But the terms and conditions must not be rigid as insurance policies.

The fact that Malaysia is now the fattest country in Asia proves that many people are incapable of controlling their food intake on their own. It warrants government intervention.

The Health Ministry should be congratulated for taking the initiative, which would save huge sums of taxpayers’ money.

Doubling the current number of government hospitals and clinics, which are already bursting at their seams, would not be enough if Malaysians continue with their unhealthy lifestyle of overeating and under-exercising.

We take pride in our Malaysian food, made delicious and appetising with a generous dose of oil, salt, sugar, spice and artificial flavouring and colouring. This is worsened by eating too much of our favourite foods when our body needs what we rarely or never eat; such as vegetables and fruits.

Making matters worse, the food is washed down with over-sweetened teh tarik or cold drinks that are equivalent to many teaspoons of sugar. Whether for buffets or catered meals, plain water is often not provided to dilute super-sweet coffee or tea.

Leaders with true leadership qualities would have to be cruel to be kind, whereas those who just wish to be popular would choose expediency. But implementation must be tempered with compassion, and the objective is to rehabilitate, not punish.

Those found to be obese or suffering from non-communicable diseases should be given the opportunity to undergo rehabilitation, while those who refuse or make no attempts to do so will have their jobs terminated.

This is already provided for in many jobs in the private sector, such as commercial vehicle drivers. They are required to pass medical examinations every year before they can renew their commercial vehicle driving licences.

But this is poorly enforced, resulting in a large number of commercial vehicles being handled by drivers with health issues who are a danger to other road users and themselves.

If the Health Ministry’s initiative is well implemented, the first beneficiaries would be the government servants, who would otherwise join the ranks of being obese and unfit.

Life is a great equaliser. We can choose to enjoy our food now with wild abandon and suffer the consequences later, or discipline ourselves with our diet and regular exercise, and enjoy a healthy and happy life with our loved ones.

Many Malaysians succumb to social norms, with eating being our favourite pastime and hosts being considered gracious by offering more food than everyone can eat. They certainly need to be nudged to change unhealthy lifestyles.

Such a transformation must be led by the government, and large corporations would follow suit, with the rest coming on board later. This will make for a better, healthier and happier Malaysia. If not, there would be untold sufferings by those who fall ill, bringing countless miseries to their families.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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